In front of Tong Ning, he was obnoxiously full of it, yet his words didn’t feel baseless to him.
There was essentially no such person in his and Tang Suoyan’s life.
Hearing that, Tong Ning nodded and went, “That’s the way it should be.”
Tao Xiaodong didn’t linger on the subject.
He was seriously unwilling to discuss anything remotely related to Tang Suoyan with him.
Ending earlier, Tang Suoyan drove directly over from his teacher’s house to fetch him.
Tao Xiaodong let him go up, preemptively leaving instead.
It was warm upstairs, causing Tao Xiaodong’s face to be slightly flushed.
When he got into the car, Tang Suoyan asked him, “Did you drink”
Tao Xiaodong said that he didn’t.
“Your face looks red, so I thought you had,” Tang Suoyan touched the back of his hand on his face.
“Was it hot”
“Yeah, it was way too hot upstairs.” The back of Tang Suoyan’s hand was cool and comforting against his skin.
Tao Xiaodong smiled.
The ride home was relatively long.
Along the way, Tao Xiaodong reclined in his seat, staring outside.
The street lights overhead were elegantly arranged, remodelled last year, to shine a light into the hearts of wayfarers on the late-night journey home.
“I saw Tong Ning at dinner just now,” Tao Xiaodong opened his mouth to say.
Tang Suoyan hummed in response.
Tao Xiaodong laughed at his own antics.
“I put on a bit of an attitude.
How pointless is that.”
Tang Suoyan glanced over before turning back to focus at the road ahead, driving.
“Did he annoy you”
“He didn’t,” Tao Xiaodong shook his head.
“I just couldn’t listen to him mention you.”
This was likely the first time that they were mentioning Tong Ning.
Before this, Tao Xiaodong didn’t want to bring him up, and eventually, there was simply no need.
Today, though, it seemed that Tong Ning had put the past behind him, regarding it rationally and not showing any signs of awkwardness when on the subject.
That was great, if indeed the case; with his obstinacy, it mustn’t have been easy for him to move on.
After taking a shower, Tao Xiaodong laid down and let Tang Suoyan apply the medication for him.
The area near his eye wasn’t as discoloured as it previously was, fading into a yellow ring at its fringes, whereas the burgundy at its centre had intensified.
When Tao Xiaodong mentioned Tong Ning for the second time, Tang Suoyan’s hands didn’t pause, and after applying the medicine, he blew gently beside Tao Xiaodong’s eye, saying, “Don’t bring him up.”
“Does it make you unhappy to hear him being brought up” The cotton swab was pressed on the tail of his eye.
Tao Xiaodong shut his eyes.
“It doesn’t bother me,” Tang Suoyan said calmly, “I just don’t want to make you unhappy the more he comes up.”
Tao Xiaodong said, “It also doesn’t bother me.”
“No” Tang Suoyan moved his face to the side and dipped his head down to inspect the area where skin had broken right in the middle.
His voice carried a touch of levity.
“I’d thought that you felt all stuffy inside after seeing him, which is why you’d keep bringing him up.”
Tao Xiaodong tightly shut his eyes.
“Not at all.”
“Ah, I was misguided, then.” Tang Suoyan playfully blew on his eyes again, causing Tao Xiaodong’s eyelashes to quiver.
“I’d assumed that Xiaodong was trying to comfort me.”
“I can do that.” While that wasn’t Tao Xiaodong’s intention, he quickly stepped into the role.
They both smiled.
Tang Suoyan changed the cotton swab and blotted on more medicine.
It was cool and soft against his skin.
Eyes shut, Tao Xiaodong uttered slowly, “Actually, I want to know if time can really take all of these away.
All the good and the bad feelings, whether we’ll forget them with time.”
Tang Suoyan, watching him, countered, “What do you think”
Tao Xiaodong said, “I think that it will.”
Tang Suoyan took away the used cotton swabs and threw them away after wrapping them with paper.
He stood up, casting his gaze down onto Tao Xiaodong.
“Those that should be forgotten are lost forever, but those that should be remembered can never be forgotten.”
Tao Xiaodong had been like this for some time now, occasionally saying some things that were unlike him.
Tang Suoyan came back after tossing the items.
Tao Xiaodong was still in the position he was earlier.
After turning off the lights, Tang Suoyan laid down beside him, toying with his ear.
The earlobe was terribly sensitive to heat.
The warmth of his fingertips travelled along that thin piece of skin, sizzling slightly.
On Sunday, Tang Suoyan went to the lab.
Tao Huainan and Chi Cheng had the day off, however, so Tao Xiaodong went over to spend the day with them.
The duo were too hardworking.
Tao Xiaodong wanted to chat with them for a while but neither would entertain him.
Chi Cheng was doing a set of science papers, whereas Tao Huainan was touching his books, and, when he tired of that, switched to listening.
Just like that, Tao Xiaodong passed the day watching them study from the bylines.
Later, Chi Cheng checked his answers and calculated his score, then set his pen down, going to prepare lunch.
“Don’t, let’s have lunch out,” said Tao Xiaodong.
Chi Cheng sat down at once and watched him, “Ge, is something wrong”
Tao Xiaodong said, “Nah, I just feel that the two of you have been working too hard.”
“There’s not much longer anyway, it’s bearable.” Chi Cheng glanced at Tao Huainan, who was wearing earphones and tapping away at his Braille paper.
“I haven’t asked you before,” Tao Xiaodong looked at Chi Cheng, asking with a smile, “but which school are you aiming for, Ku ge”
Before Chi Cheng could open his mouth, from the side, Tao Huainan supplied the name of a school.
Tao Xiaodong looked at him.
Chi Cheng frowned but didn’t say anything.
“That’s where he’s going.” Tao Huainan took off his earphones and closed his book.
Chi Cheng ignored him and told Tao Xiaodong the name of a provincial college right in their city.
Tao Xiaodong studied both of them.
Tao Huainan didn’t smile, he looked completely serious, but Chi Cheng was openly displaying his displeasure on his face.
Tao Xiaodong asked, “Did you two get into an argument”
“We didn’t.” Tao Huainan just smiled.
When Tao Huainan went to the bathroom, Tao Xiaodong asked Chi Cheng in a low voice, “What happened between the two of you”
“There’s no way I’m going.” Chi Cheng said to him, “He’ll probably get over it after some time.
He’s being stubborn lately.”
Tao Xiaodong asked, “What about you Don’t take him into account; what do you want”
Chi Cheng didn’t have to consider it at all.
“I won’t leave.”
After two seconds of silence, Tao Xiaodong said to him, “If you’re sure, then I won’t try to change your mind.”
“Nobody can change my mind.” Chi Cheng said expressionlessly, “Don’t tell me it’s good for me and all that, Ge, I can decide that for myself.”
Tao Xiaodong wasn’t planning to, really.
He wouldn’t stop him if Chi Cheng made the decision to leave; he’d even support him.
But Tao Xiaodong had his own selfish motivations for hoping that Chi Cheng wouldn’t.
The conversation stopped when Tao Huainan came out from the bathroom.
Tao Xiaodong got up and put on his coat, taking the two boys out for lunch.
Tao Xiaodong didn’t interfere with Chi Cheng’s affairs; the boy had his own mind and wouldn’t budge even if others said otherwise.
He had always been this way.
The next day, when Tao Xiaodong talked about this with Tang Suoyan, Tang Suoyan said, “You don’t necessarily have to look at school rankings.
It’s also wise to stay, some specialisations have top schools around here.”
Tao Xiaodong nodded.
“I thought as much.”
“Xiao Nan might have taken the wrong mindset about it.
Regardless, you should wait until after their exams to approach the topic again.”
Tao Xiaodong murmured “yeah.”
They were currently eating dinner.
Tao Xiaodong seemed to have something on his mind, gobbling his food down.
Tang Suoyan chided, “Slow down.”
“Huh” Tao Xiaodong looked up at him.
“Slow down when you eat,” Tang Suoyan repeated.
Tao Xiaodong used to devour his food, which was an unhealthy habit.
Under Tang Suoyan’s supervision, he had slowed his eating speed to a presentable level, only that he occasionally reverted to old habits when he was in a hurry or not paying attention.
“Gotcha.” Tao Xiaodong smiled and then drank his soup.
The vase of flowers on the table had been left out for a little too long and were no longer fresh.
They had stayed beautiful for many days but, at last, they were now drooping slightly under its own weight.
Tang Suoyan carried them to the balcony and replaced them with those from a bottle that were still in full bloom, then returned and continued his meal.
“Yan ge,” Tao Xiaodong began.
Tang Suoyan gave a responding hum.
“I’d like to go for the upcoming mission trip.” Tao Xiaodong cleared his throat and watched him.
“I gave it a thought.
I have gone every year, so I might as well keep up with tradition.”
They had discussed this previously.
Tao Xiaodong himself said that he wouldn’t go if Tang Suoyan wasn’t going.
During the last trip out, he had also said that he didn’t want to leave for the next while.
However, Tang Suoyan didn’t question him on it.
He nodded straightaway.
“I’ll inform them tomorrow, they can arrange your flight tickets and accommodations, then.”
“All right.” Tao Xiaodong asked him, “How long is this trip”
“One week,” Tang Suoyan told him, “I’ll check the specifics tomorrow.”
Tao Xiaodong nodded.
A few minutes later, Tang Suoyan drew a piece of tissue to dry his hands.
“Yeah,” Tao Xiaodong answered.
“Go with the hospital and return with them.
Come back when they do.”
Tao Xiaodong laughed.
“Otherwise Where else can I be going”
“Your heart has already bound off to the open fields.
There are too many places you can go.”
“That’s not true,” denied Tao Xiaodong, shaking his head.
“You yourself claimed that you couldn’t bear to leave the house and leave me behind.
I won’t take these empty promises up with you.” Tang Suoyan leaned against the back of his chair, fixing his gaze on him.
“I won’t ask much, I trust you know your bounds.
I will only say this to you: if you dare to come back a day later than the hospital, be prepared to receive payback.”
Tao Xiaodong swallowed the last mouthful of rice in his bowl, took a piece of tissue to wipe his mouth, then said with a laugh, “Don’t scare me, Yan ge, where else can I go.”
Tang Suoyan scrutinised him for a long beat, while Tao Xiaodong smiled beatifically back at him.
In the end, Tang Suoyan averted his gaze with a frown, saying, “Your words don’t mean anything.”
At once, Tao Xiaodong reached over to hold Tang Suoyan’s hand, squeezing it in silent reassurance.
Translated by luckykoi
Tao Xiaodong had been funding the Ophthalmology Department’s mission trips for many years now.
Except for one who had been on the team last year, it was the first trip out for the other few doctors in charge.
Tao Xiaodong had met Consultant Chen, who Tang Suoyan had brought up once.
He did have a commanding presence and a scholarly aura.
However, Tao Xiaodong was inured to it after spending so much time with Tang Suoyan; now, other doctors all appeared rather ordinary to him.
When the thought occurred to him, he even rebuked himself for being too superficial.
Due to the online saga with the celebrity, there were none who weren’t aware that Director Tao and Consultant Tang were close friends, and the latter would frequently feature in their conversations.
“Director Tao, let us know if you need anything, don’t hold back.” A junior doctor joked from the back of the transport.
On his side sat the doctor who had joined on last year’s trip and was more familiar with Tao Xiaodong.
He said with a grin, “He brought this thing up in the operating room yesterday as well, asking if you have a huge temper.
Consultant Tang told him to give it a try himself.
Besides, if he got you upset, Consultant Tang will make life hell for him.”
The young doctors dared to joke around.
While they didn’t explicitly name the relationship between them, they dared to crack jokes about it.
Everyone in the coach laughed.
Tao Xiaodong smiled and turned away, looking out of the window.
Out there were unending verdant pastures as far as the eye could see.
After a winter of hay, cattle leisurely swung their tails and bowed their heads in small flocks, grazing the grass.
The driver gradually reduced his speed and eventually came to a stop.
In front of the coach, a few lambs meandered across the meadow and got onto the road, slowly crossing to the other side.
They didn’t scamper when approached by the coach, stopping every few steps, forming a row of black dangos as they stood frozen, before wagging their rumps and hopping off.
At a time and place as splendid as this, even a cursory glance outside would steal the breath away.
It was exceptionally beautiful.